For 18 years the Fairview Chess Club has hosted the “I Have a Dream” tournament on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Audrey Poudrier, coach of the Fairview club, said a chess tournament is a great way to honor the civil rights leader.
“He believed children should not be judged by the color of their skin,” she said.
Competitors are on equal footing across the black-and-white boards with their black and white pieces.
“In chess, it’s not about physical strength,” Poudrier said. “It’s a mind game.”
About 90 children, teens and adults came to this year’s event held at Ponderosa Junior High School. Divisions were children in kindergarten through fifth grade, children in grades six through eight, and high school students and adults. The tournament prepares players for the regional competition on Feb. 23. The regional tournament is a qualifier for state.
“Every year I feel this is really when chess season starts,” said Zoe Haupt, 13, who placed second at state last year.
Monday’s chess tournament brought people together from around the region. Teams and competitors came from Redmond, Gilchrist, Bonanza and from schools around Klamath Falls, Poudrier said.
Usually there are about 100 competitors. She guessed they were 10 short this year because sunny weather and the holiday weekend may have taken some families out of the area for ski trips or other outdoor activities. In the past, chess has been a fun event to play indoors when the weather is nasty, Poudrier said.
For Tatjana Luce and Kori Delgado, both 12, chess has been a way to make friends. The two girls became friends over a chess board. They both started playing as kindergartners at the Fairview Chess Club. Now, as seventh graders at Ponderosa Junior High, they still play and still make friends through the game.
“You play against other people and meet new people,” said Tatjana. “I’ve made friends, I’ve made best friends, at chess club.”
Ciara Dykstra, 15, a student at Klamath Union High School, also said she made friends over the years through chess. Monday was the first year she didn’t compete in the “I Have a Dream” tournament, after learning to play chess at age three and joining the Fairview club when she was in fourth grade. This year she helped officiate the tournament.
“I made a lot of friends over the chessboard,” Ciara said. “I was really shy and did not want to go to school. Joining chess made me want to go to school and make friends.”
At the tournament
Both Tatjana and Kori have come to the “I Have a Dream” tournament every year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to compete, they said.
Tatjana said she gets nervous and excited at tournaments like Monday’s. That is, until she starts playing. Then she can concentrate and focus on the game.
Kori also likes the zen-like mode she gets in when she plays.
“I like it’s a slow-paced game,” Kori said. “I get to concentrate and think. I get to use strategy. It’s fun to get out and play chess.”
The two girls won their first round Monday. Competitors played five rounds all together.
The girls enjoyed sizing up the competition and watching for their opponents to make mistakes. They said they could envision moves their opponent should have made, but didn’t.
When they see those mistakes, or in Kori’s case when she saw her checkmate coming a few moves ahead, each must fight to keep a straight face and not give anything away. That’s something they learned at the Fairview club with Poudrier.
“It’s hard to keep a smile off your face,” Tatjana said.
Kori said she looks forward to Monday’s tournament because she gets a taste of what competition will be like in future tournaments during the chess season. Both girls said they also learn from members of other teams. If one player uses certain strategies, chances are the rest of the team does, too.
“I get to know who I’m up against in regionals,” Kori said. “I get to see their strategy.”